Monday, December 5, 2011
Shaleeakh Vayishlach "And he sent"
B'reisheet (Genesis) 32:4 - 36:43
Knowing HaShem and living by faith are two completely different issues. Living out our faith on a day-to-day basis requires us to trust HaShem for each moment. Therefore, living by faith is more difficult then simply having knowledge of HaShem. In Vayishlach, we can see that Yaakov and his family also had difficulty finding enough faith to trust HaShem with each moment of their lives. Vayishlach gives us four good examples of how Yaakov learned to trust HaShem through tests that helped Yaakov grow spiritually. The four tests that Yaakov experienced related to fear, faith, sin, and commitment.
The first of the four tests Yaakov experienced was fear. B'reisheet 32:6-7 states, "the messengers returned to Yaakov, saying, We came to thy brother Esav, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him. Then Yaakov was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands." When Yaakov is informed that Esav has sent four hundred men to meet him, Yaakov fears the worst. As a result, Yaakov allows fear to control his response to the news. Yaakov separates his household into two bands. Yaakov determined it is better to lose half of his family rather than all his family. Yaakov was reacting to what he perceived as a danger. Allowing fear to control his actions kept Yaakov from completely trusting HaShem. B'reisheet 32:9-12 states "Yaakov said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which said unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children." Clearly Yaakov made the decision to divide his camp before he sought HaShem's guidance. In other words, Yaakov was asking HaShem to bless the decision he had already made. Asking HaShem to bless a decision that we have already made is not living by faith. Like many of us, Yaakov wanted to control his own life and use HaShem to justify his actions. Yaakov should have sought HaShem's council before making his decision and acting on the decision.
The second test that Yaakov experienced is a trial of faith. When Yaakov left his father's house twenty years earlier, his trust in HaShem was based on the condition that HaShem would return him to his father's house in peace. B'reisheet, 28:20-21 states "Yaakov vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God" Yaakov had not learned that faith in HaShem cannot require a conditional arrangement. Yaakov's faith needed to develop inwardly so that he trusted HaShem despite his circumstances. To change Yaakov's faith from a faith based on conditions into a faith based on relationship, Yaakov needed to learn about HaShem on a personal level. When Yaakov was alone HaShem revealed Himself to Yaakov. B'reisheet 32:24 states, "Yaakov was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." HaShem tested Yaakov's faith by showing him that prevailing in faith required Yaakov to wrestle with his own nature. Yaakov would never fully commit his life to HaShem unless he overcame his own doubts. Yaakov's battle was with his own will. After Yaakov won his battle, HaShem transformed Yaakov from a man whose name meant "supplanter" into an individual that was worthy of the name of Yisrael. B'reisheet 32:29- 30 states, "Yaakov asked him, and said, tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Yaakov called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." Yaakov now understood that trusting HaShem would require him to overcome his flesh.
The third test that Yaakov experienced comes from the sin of his sons, Simeon and Levi. Simeon and Levi sinned because of their zeal to avenge Dinah's rape. Even though Simeon and Levi had every right to avenge Dinah's rape they acted in an unrighteous way without thinking. They avenged her rape deceitfully by tricking those responsible into believing that they were entering the covenant between HaShem and Yisrael. B'reisheet 34:13-18 states "And the sons of Yaakov answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: but in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone. And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son." Simeon and Levi required Hamor's household to become circumcised under the pretense that they would be allowed to intermarry with Israel. Simeon and Levi used the covenant of circumcision for their own personal gain. Therefore, they did not honor the holiness of the covenant of circumcision. Simeon and Levi's action was similar to adopting an individual with the intent of murder. Unfortunately, this sin cost them a physical inheritance in the land of Yisrael as B'reisheet 49:5-7 states.
The final test Yaakov faced was whether he would continue a lifelong commitment of abiding in HaShem. For the first time in his life, Yaakov realized that he needed to put away the idols from his household. B'reisheet 35:1-4 states "God said unto Yaakov, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fled from the face of Esav thy brother. Yaakov said unto his household, and to all that were with him, put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: and let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto G-d, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. They gave unto Yaakov all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Yaakov hid them under the oak which was by Shechem." Clearly Yaakov was finally totally committed to serve HaShem. As a result, of Yaakov's heart-felt change, HaShem reaffirmed the covenant. B'reisheet 35:10-12 states, "G-d said unto him, Thy name is Yaakov: thy name shall not be called any more Yaakov, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. G-d said unto him, I am G-d Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land." Israel's heart was now ready to receive all the blessings that HaShem had promised to Avraham.
Yaakov had to overcome fear and sin to become the faithful and committed servant HaShem wanted him to be. Yaakov's faith became unconditional and became a faith that would endure many trials. However, it took a personal relationship with HaShem for Yaakov to understand how to trust completely. James 1:12 in the Brit-Hadashah states "Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." Yaakov's struggle gave him the crown of life. Yaakov was blessed because he developed a personal relationship with HaShem that was based on faith. As a result, of this transformation of character HaShem changed his name into Yisrael.
By ABOUT Torah
© 2011 About Torah